The defensive lineman hopes to follow a similar path to success with the Titans.
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Austin Johnson learned patience in college, and the experience helped him during his first NFL season. ust prior to the start of training camp, Titans rookie defensive lineman Austin Johnson had breakfast with Bob Shoop, his former defensive coordinator at Penn State.
“He told me to keep a level head and absorb everything I can,’’ Johnson said of Shoop, who’s now defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee. “We’ve always had a good connection. I could talk to him about anything when I was in college. And he is one of the smartest guys I have ever been around. He wants what is best for me. He was always pushing me to get better.”
“Blackson should move over there, and we’re going to need to get Austin Johnson up and crank him up and he needs to play at a high level,’’ Mularkey said. “I’d like just a little more nastiness in (Austin’s) play, a little more violence in his play, and I think he’ll be fine.”
Penn State defensive lineman Austin Johnson jersey spent some time with Titans defensive line coach Nick Eason at the NFL Combine, and got good vibes. Later, during the pre-draft process, he made a visit to Tennessee, and talked to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
“We’ve targeted Austin for a while there,’’ Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. “He can play nose, he can play five technique, he can play three technique. “There is a lot of versatility along the defensive line with him. He’s got some quickness — he’s actually got some ability to shoot gaps and win on third down situations too as a sub rush.”
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The winnowing process began with the offseason program from April through June. It continues when players report following a six-week break, and then there are only two weeks from the initial training camp practice to Aug. 13, when the Titans host the San Diego Chargers in the first of four preseason games. The preseason itinerary also includes a Saturday afternoon home game against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 20, a nationally-televised visit to the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 27 and the final tuneup at the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 1.
Although he is a 40-year-old, first-year general manager, Robinson is a seasoned evaluator of football talent. The Southeast Missouri State graduate spent the last two seasons as director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following a 12-year stint in the scouting department of the New England Patriots, including five seasons (2009–2013) as director of college scouting for the Patriots.
“Delanie, he is one of the guys most people would compare me to,’’ Smith said. “We have the same similar build, carry the same skill-set. But Delanie Walker is Delanie Walker, and I am Jonnu Smith at the end of the day. At the end of the day nobody can bring what I can bring to the table and nobody can bring what he can bring. Everybody is their own player.”
“I hope we can find someone as productive as Delanie,” Mularkey said when discussing Smith. “I think Jonnu is a guy we feel can compete and play not just an F, we are going to see if he is going to be a point player, point blocker. Certainly with his speed and his ability in the passing game, we hope that translates to what Delanie has done for us since he has been here.”
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The Titans also added Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor in the third round. Taylor hauled in 253 passes for 4,234 yards and 41 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker traveled on the Titans Caravan this week. During a stop, he discussed his USO Tour, new tight end Jonnu Smith, and weapons for the offense.
“All those guys bring a different aspect to the game,’’ said Byard, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft. “Corey Davis, he’s a guy who can play on the outside, and he can take a top off a defense. Taywan Taylor can catch screens and do whatever from the slot. And Jonnu Smith is going to be able to come in and learn from Delanie Walker and be able soak up the game from him and still be a threat when he comes in. So it just brings a different dynamic to the game and teams are going to have to game plan against that.”
In the NFL Draft, the Titans added two receivers early, beginning with Davis, who caught 97 balls for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. His 5,278 career receiving yards is an FBS record, and he ranks second in NCAA history in career receiving touchdowns with 52.